Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Maine Competitive Bridge Grants
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Thank you, Bruce.
Before I begin, let me say a few words about Hurricane Dorian. The President met with key Cabinet secretaries and agency heads to coordinate our response in the potentially impacted areas, as soon as Hurricane Dorian became a threat. Successful disaster response and recovery is locally executed, state managed, and federally supported. FEMA has pre-positioned the Federal government’s assets to support the states in their response and recovery goals. We have been in contact and coordination with state and local government officials in the potentially impacted states. We are glad to see the hurricane downgraded to a category 2, but destructive winds, flooding rains and storm surges remain a threat to coastal communities in several states in the southeast so we will continue to stay on top of the situation. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Crisis Management Center has been monitoring and preparing for Hurricane Dorian since August 24th.
Now, to the business at hand. It’s a great pleasure to be here at the invitation of Senator Susan Collins. As Chair of the very powerful Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, she is a tremendous advocate for the importance of infrastructure investment in Maine and in our country! Our Department looks to Senator Collins for her leadership and insights. We work very closely with her to ensure that the transportation needs of Maine are fully understood and appreciated. I’ve personally learned so much about Maine from her!
With this close partnership in mind, I'm excited to announce the Competitive Highway Bridge Program grants for Maine, totaling $25 million. These grants will fund two separate projects.
The first project will receive an $18.9 million grant to replace 4 rural bridges – rated in poor condition – along the I-295 corridor in Cumberland County. Maine will also receive $6.1 million to replace 3 rural bridges in poor condition in Franklin County.
These important projects will improve Maine’s vital corridor to markets and ports in New England; enhance safety for all travelers; ensure access to healthcare and emergency services for the region’s communities; and support tourism and recreation.
In addition, I’m excited to announce a proposed INFRA grant of $36 million for the Madawaska International Bridge Replacement Project. This project will replace the century-old bridge that crosses the Saint John River in Northern Maine. The new bridge will feature wider travel lanes, shoulders and sidewalks. This will greatly enhance safety for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists and reduce traffic congestion.
Since 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $196 million in discretionary funding for Maine infrastructure projects. This funding covers road, rail, marine and airport infrastructure. Grants have also been awarded to help Maine respond to hazardous materials incidents.
- $25 million was awarded to create a 6-mile direct connection between Route 9 and I-395 east of Bangor.
- More than $7 million was awarded in transit assistance programs. These programs provide access and mobility to seniors, the disabled, and others, as well as improve facilities and buy buses.
- $6 million was awarded to replace the Casco Bay Island Ferry.
- Almost $8 million has been awarded to repair and upgrade 22 railroad bridges in Northeastern Maine.
- Another $17.5 million dollars has been awarded under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.
- More than $46 million has been awarded under the Airport Improvement Program to airports all over the state.
- Finally, more than $2.5 million for Maine ship and boatyards, including almost $1 million to the Portland Shipyard to replace an aging 330 ton shiplift.
Senator Collins has been a leader all along the way in bringing this funding home to Maine.
This Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation are concerned about the infrastructure needs of America’s rural communities which have traditionally been overlooked. I always say that rural America is not looking for a handout – but, rather, a fair share and an equitable process in the distribution of federal resources.
Did you know that about 19 percent of Americans live in rural areas? And, about one-third of the total vehicle miles traveled in 2017 were in rural areas. Yet, rural areas accounted for 46 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017. So, from a safety point of view, it is good policy to pay attention to the infrastructure needs of rural America.
Lastly, let me also mention the importance of Congress to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Nearly 25 years after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, it is time to update our trade policies with Mexico and Canada.
The USMCA is a bipartisan agreement that delivers a win for America’s farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers. And, it will help address longstanding trade imbalances by granting American businesses across all sectors of our economy greater freedom to sell their goods and services throughout North America.
In this Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to be a partner to state and local governments in building transportation infrastructure for the future. This Administration believes that it is important to empower decision-making at the state and local level. You know best the needs of your community.
Again, congratulations on these federal grants. We are delighted to work with Senator Collins to help improve the economic vibrancy and quality of life in Maine. Thank you.
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